Zoltán Balázs' direction opens the 63rd MESS Festival in Sarajevo!

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, at the 63rd MESS International Theater Festival, Susan Sontag's absurd Alice in Bed, directed by Zoltán Balázs, will be presented. The audience of the prestigious theater meeting will be able to see the co-production of the MESS International Theater Festival, the SARTR - Sarajevo War Theatre, the Maladype Theatre and the Budapest Spring Festival in Sarajevo on the 1st of October, 2023. The all-art production, which also celebrates the anniversary of the American writer's birth and death, will be the opening event of the international theater parade to be held between October 1 and 9.

About the writer:

Susan Sontag, the literary, feminist and pacifist icon, was passionately searching for the truth throughout her life. She spoke out against the war in Vietnam and Yugoslavia, and also carried out significant humanitarian work in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In besieged Sarajevo, she directed and staged Samuel Beckett's existentialist drama Waiting for Godot with Bosnian actors who rehearsed and performed by candlelight amidst the bombings. The large number of audiences present at the performances, despite the constant danger to their lives, became a symbol of commitment to peace and unity.

The jubilee direction of Zoltán Balázs also pays tribute to the legendary performance presented thirty years ago, as well as to the premiere of the writer's play Alice in Bed, which was also seen by the audience for the first time three decades ago as a production of the New York Theater Workshop at the La MaMa Theater in New York.

Sontag, one of the most influential philosophers of the last century, whose books have been translated into more than thirty languages, deeply believed in the idea of ​​humanity and equality. In addition to writing, she considered it important to stand up for the rights of others. As the president of the American center of the International PEN Club, she considered the freedom of expression and the development of literature to be the organization's main goals, and under her leadership, the Writers' Association undertook solidarity with many persecuted and imprisoned writers. Susan's unrelenting personality and her writings, written with a passion for truth, have inspired free thinkers around the world. Her essay collection "Against Interpretation" advocated sensory reception of art instead of scientific works. She also wrote short stories, historical romance and fantasy novels, as well as four plays, the best known of which is 'Alice in Bed'. Her last book, a monograph on war and disaster, "The Pain of Others," was published in 2003.

She died on December 28, 2004 after a long struggle with leukemia. Her characteristic crystal clear spirit always shone through the pain caused by cancer. According to her will, she was buried in Paris, next to the graves of Samuel Beckett and Jean-Paul Sartre. A square in Sarajevo was named after her.

About the play:

Alice in Bed is a free-flowing 'phantasmagoria' commemorating the brilliant sister of William and Henry James, Alice James (1848-1892). At the age of nineteen, Alice fell into a deep depression, suffered from various obscure and debilitating illnesses, stayed in bed, tried to commit suicide, wrote a diary, and finally died at the age of forty-four. In Sontag's play, Alice James merges with another great Alice of her time, the heroine of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The dramatic work with a special structure is the apotheosis of the cyclic projections of despair, hopelessness and rage, the failures and victories of imagination. The twisted, multi-dimensional story reveals the mazes of Alice's damaged soul and the causes of constant family conflicts. Susan Sontag writes about her work: "I think I have been preparing my whole life to write Alice in Bed. A play about women's concerns and emotions, and ultimately, a play about the imagination. The reality of the prison of the spirit. The triumph of imagination. But imaginary victory is not enough.”

About the city and the festival:

Sarajevo is known worldwide for its stunning natural landscapes and cultural-historical heritage. Before the Bosnian war, the capital with a thousand faces was famous for its vibrant cultural life and the huge festival organized under the aegis of renewal. After the war, an international audience interested in artistic novelties returned to Sarajevo, and today they again persistently visit the historic city's world-famous film and theater events.

One of the city's cultural jewels, the long-standing MESS International Theater Festival, has over the past years provided an opportunity to present itself to artists with unconventional thinking, whose specific ideas about contemporary art had a fruitful effect on the representatives of other arts, as well as on the multi-ethnic and multi-religious society as a whole.

The festival concept of Nihad Kreševljaković, the current director of the MESS Festival, also wants to perpetuate and nurture this spirit. In the spirit of this effort to renew art, he asked the internationally renowned Hungarian director, Zoltán Balázs, to give space to his usual exceptional ideas and stage the cult play of Susan Sontag, who is jubilating several times this year, imbued with deep humanity, with Bosnian artists. This time, the director of the Maladype Theatre's production in Sarajevo does not lack dynamism and playfulness, multifaceted synchronicity running on several levels and threads, storytelling combining specific content and form solutions, and the emotional and intellectual heightening of acting through verbal and non-verbal signs.

The performance, born from the cooperation of multinational partner institutions, will go on an international tour after the presentation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It will be shown in Hungary in May 2024 at the Budapest Spring Festival.

Susan Sontag: Alice in Bed

Translated by: Senada Kreso

Joint performance of MESS International Theater Festival, SARTR Theater, Maladype Theatre and Budapest Spring Festival

Alice James: Snežana Bogićević
Mother/Nurse: Ana-Mia Karić
Alice's father "Henry": Kemal Rizvanović
Alice's brother "Harry": Sanjin Arnautović
Margaret Fuller: Matea Mavrak
Emily Dickinson: Hana Zrno
Young man: Enes Kozličić


Director: Zoltán Balázs
Dramaturg: Zoltán Balázs
Set designer: Zoltán Balázs
Costume designer: Ljiljana Majkić
Music director: Tijana Vignjević
Light: Nedim Pejdah
Sound: Daniel Jurišić, Irhad Hodžić
Assistant directors: Ajla Medanhodžić, Minja Novaković
Production assistants: Lejla Hsanbegovic, Belma Jusufović
Production managers: Katalin Balázs, Maja Salkić
Producers: Sylvia Huszár, Nihad Kreševljaković

Venue: SARTR - Sarajevo War Theatre, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Opening night: 10/01/2023

Duration of the performance: 90 minutes

Sponsors: Ministry of Culture and Innovation, Ministry of Culture and Sports of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Szinhaz.online, 2023